By Antonis Stroggylakis / firstname.lastname@example.org
With 3:27 to play in the game between Olympiacos Piraeus and Olimpia Milano, Kostas Sloukas drove to the basket and kicked the ball out to a wide-open Aaron Harrison. It was his ninth assist in the match since the latter drained the 3-pointer to hand the Reds the biggest lead in their game, 79 – 67. A key, no-turning-back point in the match.
That was one of the many perfectly executed plays of Olympiacos in the second half thanks to which the Greek side took the 86 – 75 win over its opponents to improve its EuroLeague record to 2-1. Milano suffered its first loss overall this season after 13th victories.
As the Greek guard admitted: “As time goes by, I feel better in this team. I know that I was here seven years, but still, it was difficult in the beginning. But my teammates, the coach, and the whole staff have helped me. I want to say that this was a very crucial game for us, after our bad loss against Zalgiris. We were motivated – excellently motivated, I can say – because we played against a great team. And I think we controlled the second half of the game and we deserved the win.”
Giorgos Printezis added 16 points, Aaron Harrison dropped 14 out of his 16 points in the last 14 minutes while Shaq McKissic finished with 10 points, four rebounds, and four assists, having a huge contribution in Oly’s second-half turnaround.
McKissic was the driving force for Olympiacos in a 9 – 0 run early in the third period that laid the foundations for the victory. He first made a triple, scored the basket and-one, and sent an assist to Sloukas for the bucket from downtown as the hosts turned a 40 – 48 deficit to a 49 – 48 lead. When the period was completed with his team up, 63 – 58, he had eight points and four dimes in the quarter.
Milano previously held a 36 – 42 lead at the break mostly thanks to Sergio Rodriguez’s literally perfect first half. Chacho went to the locker room with 15 points in 9:18 minutes without missing a shot (5-5 from the field plus 2-2 free throws) but was held to just three points in the second half.
Rodriguez going silent was one of the major differences between the two halves, along with the fact that the Olympiacos committed just two turnovers after the break after having 10 in the first 20 minutes.
“The thing is we made only two turnovers in the second half, none in the last quarter, and we made 20 assists to 12 turnovers”, said Olympiacos coach Giorgos Bartzokas after the game. “This was the key to the game. We shared the ball well and when we found our confidence in shooting, we could win the game. It’s very important, as you know. Milan was unbeatable up until now, so I have to give credit to our players.”
Michael Roll added 16 points for Milano and Zach LeDay scored 10. Milano went up 51 – 53 after Olympiacos’ run but their opponents answered with an 8-0 counterattack to retake the advantage. This time they never let go of it.
Milano’s coach Ettore Messina also agreed that the key was the second half: “It was a hard-fought game that was, I think, decided in the second half by their ability to take away our favorite offensive situation and, on the other hand, to keep driving into the paint. We didn’t play our usual defense, and we allowed too many penetrations that led to too many open threes for them in the crucial moments of the game. So we just take it and move on to the next game.”